by Valerie Vancollie
(valeriev84 at hotmail dot com)
Summary: A daring plan to get hold of a new Imperial encryption machine forces Luke to learn new Force skills. Skills that require him not only to confront his newly discovered relationship with Darth Vader, but to use it as well.
Updating Schedule: Unlike with my other fic, "Dynasty," there is no fixed update schedule for this story. I am still writing it and shall add each new part as I finish it.
Disclaimer: I do not own Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Princess Leia, Wedge Antilles or any other of the "Star Wars" characters, items or situations. I only lay claim to the original aspects of the fic.
"We'll get Han back, I promise," Luke stated as he reached the table Leia was sitting at, clearly lost in thought.
"What?" Leia said, looking at Luke as he sat down across from her.
"As soon as Lando and Chewie discover where Boba Fett is, we'll go save Han."
"Yes, I know," Leia replied, forcing a smile onto her face. "That's actually not what I was thinking about for once."
"Oh?" Luke inquired as he started eating.
"Our newest allies, the Bothans, have managed to intercept a high-level Imperial communiqué about some top secret new weapon the Empire is constructing."
"That doesn't sound good," Luke declared, food momentarily forgotten.
"No," Leia agreed, toying with her leftover vegetables. "We've heard a few rumors about it already but nothing concrete."
"Until now. So, what is it?"
"We still don't know," Leia stated with a frown. "You see, the communiqué is encrypted in some new code that's unlike anything our cryptologists have seen before."
"Enigma?" Luke asked. "That new super code people have been whispering about?"
"Yes, Enigma," Leia confirmed. "And so far the rumors seem to be true. None of our cryptologists are even optimistic."
"Which is a really bad sign given their usual arrogance," Luke concluded.
"Basically," Leia agreed, dropping her fork. "It's just so frustrating! We have the information, but we simply can't decode it!"
"There's no chance of getting our hands on one of the encryption machines?"
"No. Generals Rieekan and Madine have looked at all the information we have on each and every base that we are sure has one, and they're fortresses. So, short of walking in and demanding one, we're not going to get our hands on one."
"If General Madine doesn't consider it worth the risk, then it really isn't worth it," Luke declared carefully after a few moments of silence.
"I know," Leia stated as she looked at him. "Which brings us back to having vital Intel in our possession and being unable to interpret it."
"I see," Luke replied, picking at his food. "Give it some time, I'm sure that something will come to you. Perhaps you just need to sleep it over."
"I hope so."
"Get some sleep, you look like you haven't really had any in a week."
As soon as Luke entered the recreational lounge, the momentary silence he'd noticed lately fell over the room. He forced himself not to shift uncomfortably under the gazes that he knew were being directed at him, though he could never catch them. Instead he looked around for his squad mates.
"Luke! Over here," Wedge called out from the left end of the room.
"Sorry I'm late," Luke apologized as soon as he reached the table and dropped into the empty seat they'd saved for him. "The meeting ran over as we rearranged the patrol schedules."
"What'd we get?" Hobbie asked.
"Not the dawn shift again I hope," Wes pleaded.
"Nope, Blues got that this time," Luke replied as he picked up the card-chips he'd been dealt. "We've got the afternoon to early evening shift."
"Nice," Wedge declared as he moved a negative Master of sabers card-chip into the interference field.
"Now if we could just teach Skywalker to play sabacc properly, we'd be in the enviable position of being the all-round best squadron," Tycho declared after Luke let an Ace of flasks go.
"Watch it, Lieutenant," Luke retorted, briefly wondering if Commander Narra had been correct after all.
The man had always said that Luke needed to distance himself more from his flight, to be a clear leader with unquestionable authority. Luke had just never quite seen it that way, believing it was better to get to know the members under his command and to gain their trust. Not to mention the fact that he hadn't even felt remotely ready for the authority he'd been given as Narra's second-in-command and leader of the then Rogue Flight.
His early decision, though, had stuck, especially after it became known that the Hero of Yavin didn't think himself superior to other pilots. The fact that there were several veterans on the current squad didn't help either. On the bright side, it had gained him many friends among his men, but that meant their deaths hurt all the more too. Of the original men he and Commander Narra had chosen only Wedge, Hobbie and Wes remained. Rogue Flight's, and later Rogue Squadron's, record, however, was unmatched. A fact that had not gone unnoticed by the other squadrons or Alliance High Command.
Luke was sure that this was a large factor in the latter's decision to reinstate him to his former command and squad after his abrupt absence after the Battle of Hoth. He knew that not all members of the Council agreed with this decision or the fact that he hadn't been punished for his actions and he knew to tread carefully around them. But his squad, or what was left of it, had welcomed him back with great applause. Even Wedge, who'd temporarily been instated as leader and who'd done a terrific job of it, hadn't hesitated to accept him back.
"Yes, Sir. Sorry, Sir," Tycho replied, though the large smile on his face indicated that he was less than sincere.
Luke sighed and muttered under his breath about respect and insubordinate subordinates, earning a few chuckles.
As happened often lately, it didn't take Luke's mind long to wander back to Bespin and all that he had learned there. Like Leia, he often woke from nightmares at night now and in the cold darkness of his room he could often imagine that it was all just that - a bad dream. In the light of day, however, there was no escaping the horrifying truth.
At first, he'd tried telling himself that it was all a lie, some sick and elaborate plot to lure him to the Dark Side so that he would do Vader's bidding. He hadn't been able to deceive himself for long, no matter how hard he'd tried to. His meditations and the Force all but shouted that the Dark Lord was right. So much so that he wondered how he couldn't have seen it before.
Lost in thought, the fingers of Luke's left hand absently stroked the prosthetic ones even as they automatically played the game for him. It wasn't until Wedge threw down his card-chips with a curse that he realized that the majority of his squad had already folded and only Tycho, Wes, Hobbie and himself were left.
Luke blinked in surprise before he felt the Force swirling around him. He must have called on it while pondering about his father. He had started being able to use the Force more and more easily lately, but this was a whole new level for him. He hadn't even been consciously aware of doing it! This must be what Master Yoda meant about becoming one with the Force and letting it guide his actions.
"I never knew you had such a good sabacc face, Commander," Hobbie stated as he too folded.
Luke merely gave him a tight smile, not about to let the other man know that the reason he'd revealed nothing was because he'd been a thousand parsecs away.
"I take back what I said earlier," Tycho added as he glanced at his two opponents, trying to determine what they held. The five of staves and Commander of coins Wes had in the interference field could mean he was close to positive twenty-three, while Luke's negative eleven of sabers could mean anything.
Luke paused in the middle of pulling a card-chip out of his hand as the faces on his card-chips fluctuated and changed. Pushing the card-chip back, he considered what he now held. He had a total of negative twenty-one, which could mean victory if he forced an end to the game, but it was by no means certain. A quick glance at the faces of his two opponents revealed as much as he'd expected it would - nothing. He was just shifting his eyes back down to his card-chips when he suddenly knew what Wes had. Freezing, he glanced quickly at the man's card-chips and was hit with a brief flash of their faces. A peak at Tycho's card-chips revealed the same information.
What was going on? He knew it involved the Force, but it was not something either Obi-Wan or Yoda had mentioned. Not that they'd teach him how to use the Force to cheat at sabacc. Or was it cheating? Han had often complained to him about how some of the big sabacc tournaments allowed actors and telepathic beings to participate despite their clear advantage. Was his ability to use the Force really that different? Besides, it was late, he was tired and it wasn't like they were playing for anything more than tokens to the water showers instead of the sonic ones.
"End game," Luke declared as he threw down his card-chips and hit the button to turn off the randomizer.
"Sithspawn!" Tycho swore as he took in his commander's card-chips.
Wes added a string of Icady swears of his own as he saw he was only one short of a positive match.
"Hand them over," Luke said to them, tapping the table next to the tokens the others had thrown down as they were eliminated.
"Congratulations, Luke," Wedge stated as he finished his drink. "You're finally starting to win back those tokens you've lost before."
"I don't think I can ever reclaim them all," Luke responded as he pocketed them.
"Probably not," Hobbie agreed with a smile.
"Between Solo, Antilles and myself as instructors, you were bound to win sometime," Tycho commented. "Anyone up for another game?" The chorus of moans and nos caused his face to fall. "Just one more."
"That's what you always say," Levita declared.
"It's late, and we have to meet the techs tomorrow morning for the tune-up of our X-wings," Wedge said. "I'm turning in."
"Me too," Luke agreed as several others got up.
"I'd forgotten about that," Tycho admitted as he stacked the card-chips on the table. "Till tomorrow then."
Luke hid a yawn behind his hand as he fell into step beside Wedge at the entrance to the rec lounge while the others scattered towards their assigned sleeping quarters aboard Home One.
"How's the Princess been holding up?" Wedge inquired softly as they made their way through the corridors. "She didn't look so good the last time I saw her."
"As well as can be expected given the lack of news," Luke whispered, not wanting half the Alliance to know. He'd only told Wedge as he knew the Corellian wouldn't spread what he knew. "So far Lando and Chewie have come up empty."
"And, to make matters worse, the Empire is apparently constructing some new super weapon."
"The rumors are true?" Wedge demanded, wide eyed as he glanced at his friend.
"Great," Wedge moaned.
"The worst part is that since we can't crack Enigma, we can't even decode the information we have on it."
"Ah, so those rumors are true too?"
"So, do you have any good news to tell me?"
"Eh... no?" Luke replied, managing to make it sound questioningly.
"Well, it's not like we haven't faced bad situations before," Wedge stated optimistically.
Luke snorted at the understatement. The Alliance in general, and Rogue Squadron in particular, almost always faced uneven odds.
"And this weapon of theirs can't be all that bad."
"The Death Star took well over two decades to construct and its design took another decade," Wedge explained. "Weapons of that magnitude aren't drawn up and constructed overnight. They take time."
"How do you know all that?"
"One of those mandatory information and strategy sessions while you were away."
"Ah," Luke replied dryly. "I'm so sorry that I missed that."
"I'm sure you are," Wedge snickered. "Maringo fell asleep during the lecture and the Intel office chewed him out for it in front of the entire aerial defense division."
"Ouch!" Luke sympathized as they reached their quarters and Wedge toggled in their access code. "I'll be right back," he stated as he grabbed his Alliance issue toilet kit and headed for the communal fresher.
Fifteen minutes later, Luke was back in the room and started to undress for bed. He had just folded his shirt and was untying his boots when Wedge returned from the fresher.
"Have you noticed how people tend to go quiet when I enter a room lately?" Luke questioned as he threw his socks onto his boots and started to remove his pants.
"Yes," Wedge replied as he started to undress himself before he stopped and looked at his friend. "You don't know why, do you? It's Bespin."
"What?" Luke exclaimed, freezing with his pants half off.
"Word that Vader had personally laid a trap for you spread the moment the Falcon returned to the fleet," Wedge explained. "Followed soon after with the fact that you'd not only dueled the Sith but survived the encounter as well."
"Everyone knows about that?" Luke asked hollowly as he fell onto his bunk, absently pulling his pants off and tossing them aside.
"Yes," Wedge confirmed, puzzled. "It's an amazing accomplishment, Luke. People are stunned."
"I don't need any more fame," Luke replied, causing the Corellian to wince as he'd been witness to more than one of the occasions where Luke had run into an overzealous Alderaanian or fan.
"It also provides hope," Wedge offered. "Up to now Vader was seen as almost all-powerful and a lot of people believed him to be unstoppable. Now they can see that even he can fail and that's a powerful motivator."
"I suppose," Luke finally admitted as he crawled under the sheets.
"There's a saying on Corellia," Wedge said after a few minutes as he finished undressing and climbed into the upper bunk. "Hope is the source of success."
"Yes," Luke said with a sad smile as the room plunged into darkness at Wedge's command. "Han has mentioned that more than once."
"See? If he says it, then it must be true."
"Hokey religions and ancient weapons?" Luke threw out.
"Ah, yes, well..." Wedge began, his fellow Corellian and Luke's discussions about the existence of the Force and its worth were well known to him.
"Goodnight, Wedge," Luke offered after letting him hang for a few seconds.
'Son?' the deep voice echoed through his head even as it caused shudders to race along his spine. 'I know you can hear me.'
Flashes of Bespin flew before Luke's eyes even as he tried to tune out Vader's voice. His entrance, the near freezing in the carbonite pit, the duel, the loss of his hand, the unveiling of the terrible truth, his fall, the approach of the Imperial ship, his inability to let himself go, the hands pulling him from the weather vane and forcing him down inside the ship and into the Dark Lord's presence...
Luke woke from the dream with a silent cry, laying panting in the dark as his heart raced.
'Son,' the word still echoed in his head.
"Only a dream," he whispered softly to himself. "Only a dream."
He'd been getting them ever since he'd slept without the aid of medication after his operation. It was guaranteed that he'd wake up at least once a night, often twice or thrice. At first he'd cried out when doing so, waking Wedge in the process, but he'd learned to keep quiet so as not to disturb him.
'Son,' it was annoying how that one word could mean so much; could evoke such strong, and conflicting, emotions within him.
'Son,' Luke squeezed his eyes shut, shaking his head to clear it of any last vestiges of the nightmare.
It took Luke a few seconds to realize that the voice was not coming from his mind, at least not directly.
'Son, I know that you can hear me.'
It was Him.
Vader. Sith. Father.
He was calling once more. Ever since their confrontation in Cloud City, Vader had been calling to him. Although he'd done it at all times of the day before, it had never happened at night so far. At least not that he was aware of... perhaps that had triggered some of his nightmares? Luke briefly considered the thought that the Dark Lord might have done it on purpose before discarding it. The man was in Force knew what part of the galaxy and completely unaware, he fervently hoped, of the location of his son. There was no way for him to know what time it was for him, which was probably why he spaced out his calls.
'Answer me, child.'
Luke flinched at the wording and forced himself not to respond as he had so unthinkingly and instinctively done while fleeing the Executor. It was hard as a part of him yearned to get to know his father. The rest of him knew it would be foolish. Although he was pretty sure he could prevent the Dark Lord from uncovering the location of the Rebel fleet, it wasn't worth the risk, especially since so many lives other than his own were at stake. Lives that weren't his to risk.
Besides, Luke wasn't even sure he wanted to speak to his father as it would probably be too painful. He had always longed for the man, spending countless hours on Tatooine imagining what life would be like if only the man were still alive. Fantasies of wondrous adventures and heroes, unbelievable tales of courage and, above all else, a strong bond between them - unbreakable. To know now that the man was actually alive was painful enough without hearing him ask Luke to join him and stand by his side in a horrendous mockery of his childhood dreams.
'Child, together we can end this destructive conflict.'
Luke forced his thoughts to the fact that, while the man might be his father, he was also the second-in-command of the Empire. He not only supported the tyrannical system of government that slaughtered innocents, but he had helped to create it. The moment Luke had finally come to terms with the truth, he had ransacked the Alliance archives for any bit of information on the Dark Lord.
He hadn't found much.
The records on Vader only went back about twenty-three years. The fact that this was about as long as he'd been alive hadn't escaped his notice. It allowed him to hope, as he'd scarcely dared to, that he really was the son of Anakin Skywalker before he'd turned. The fact that had struck him was that it coincided with the year listed as Anakin Skywalker's death. Not that it was so surprising as it was also the year the Jedi had been wiped out.
When Luke had first learned of the attack on the Jedi Temple and how most of the Jedi had been eliminated in the course of a few days, he'd felt horror course through him. Now, knowing that it was his father, Darth Vader, who had led the attack on the Temple that had resulted in the deaths of so many, including the children, he felt numb. To know that was his family's legacy was unbearable and too much to process. It had helped, however, to allow him to resist the temptation that arose each time his father called.
All of Yoda's warnings about the Dark Side were nothing compared to the real life example he had of what it could do. That his father, Anakin Skywalker, the Hero Without Fear, who had so legendarily defended the Republic against the separatists, could be changed to destroy that same Republic and all that it stood for, slaughtering thousands to do so, was all the warning that he needed.
Luke wondered sometimes why Yoda had never told him the truth, especially when he was preparing to leave for Bespin. Or why Ben had lied to him. Did they think that he would join Vader? When he was brutally honest with himself, he knew that the temptation would have been very great had Obi-Wan revealed the truth to him on Tatooine. By the time he'd gotten to Dagobah, however... he'd seen more than enough about the Empire and learned more than enough about Vader to not let his former dreams guide him so blindly.
Luke had been grateful when he'd seen that there was no footage of the attack on the Jedi Temple. Not only because it would have been gruesome, but also because the information the Alliance had said that Vader only got injured after the attack. How and where they didn't know, nor what he had looked like before, but it was listed as happening after the Temple attack. If there had been footage, Vader's former identity would have been instantly discovered.
The main thing this information had done, though, was to make him wonder just what had happened to his father to put him in the suit. Considering the medical knowledge available, it must have been really bad if that was the only way to sustain him. Though he had to admit that Vader's outfit added to his overall image beautifully. He'd lost track of the number of conversations he'd heard, both before and after Bespin, about the reasons for the suit and mask. They ranged from everything such as the fact that he could be some super droid to the fact that he might be an alien who couldn't breath oxygen and nitrogen air and whose appearance Palpatine wished to conceal.
He now knew it was none of those reasons, but the knowledge of what lay beneath didn't alter his fear of the man any. Knowing his former identity didn't alter what he was or what he could do. But just who was he? That was what Luke really wanted to know and what the Alliance database couldn't tell him. No one seemed to know anything about that and, frankly, no one cared. All the Alliance cared for was the fact that he was powerful enough to stride into any Imperial base or facility and be assured of near total obedience. The Dark Lord was just as feared by Imperials as he was by Rebels.
Not to mention just as much of an enigma.
The wording caused Luke's thoughts to shift as he rolled to lay on his back, glad to note that his father seemed to have given up contacting him for the night.
He could understand Leia's frustration all too well. They were fighting a war against all odds, hopelessly outmanned and outgunned. Information and strategy were their best and practically only hope of success. To have such a vital piece of information in their grasp and be unable to do anything with it...
Luke absently wondered how many Bothans had died to procure the communiqué. If for nothing else than to make their deaths worthwhile, they needed to get their hands on a cipher machine. But how?
In the dark, Luke snorted. Who was he to think that he could come up with a solution when the generals couldn't? The most he could offer was to ask his father if he perhaps wouldn't mind giving his son a decoder. Force knew he could get his hands on one easily enough.
The idea hit Luke so suddenly that he unthinkingly shot into an upright position and cursed loudly in Huttese when he hit his head on the bottom of Wedge's bunk.
Please let me know what you think of this part! Leave a review or send us an e-mail.
I shall have the next part up as soon as I can.